Their education is also superior to that of the civilized countries of Europe. In other Asian countries, including China, women are kept in a state of complete ignorance, but in Japan both men and women can write kana and Chinese characters._ (Schliemann_s Travels_China and Japan??)
The Blessings of Nature and Beautiful Scenery
The Englishman Thomas Cook, pioneer of the modern travel industry, visited Japan in 1872 and was _amazed by the richness of its nature and the beauty of its endlessly changing scenery._ In 1878, the indefatigable traveler Isabella Bird likened the rural landscape of northeast Japan as an _oriental Arcadia content with its abundance or_the Garden of Eden._ In the world of art, japonisme became a major trend, influencing the work of the French impressionists at the end of the nineteenth century. The English missionary and alpinist Walter Weston, who gave the Japanese Alps their name, was deeply fascinated by the beauty of Japan_s mountains. Edo and other castle towns in Japan provided the inspiration for the garden cities that became popular in the West.
When Japan first appeared on the stage of modern world history, Westerners came away with a strong impression of a country blessed with a beautiful natural and living environment. The dominant image of the encounter was _the mighty West meets beautiful Japan._ Japan was a _garden island_ filled with flowers and foliage that Westerners likened to an earthly paradise.
Beauty is not necessarily inferior to power. When Japan opened its doors to the West, it was in every sense a small country in the face of the great imperialist powers. But it was a small country of great beauty, and it gave the flowers of this culture to modern Europe. The pioneer of green economics Ernst Friedrich Schumacher taught us that _small is beautiful._ To this we can add that _beauty is mighty,_ for beauty has its own inherent power.
(2) The Renaissance of Beautiful Japan
A Mountain Dwelling in the City
The creation of a beautiful environment in Japan constitutes a Renaissance_a conscious regeneration of the country_s inherent natural beauty. The phrase_natural residential regions_ used in the Japanese government_s Grand Design is a rather crude and colorless bureaucratic expression. But the underlying spirit is the strongly felt need for citizens to live in harmony with the mountainous environment of Japan; it is based on a feeling of nostalgia for the scenery of the mountain village that has all but disappeared from Japan_s modern cityscapes. The ideal sought here is very similar to the concept of _a mountain dwelling in the city_ in the philosophy of the tea ceremony, one of the finest flowers of Japanese culture. It is the creation in the bustling city of a peaceful, unworldly natural environment that evokes the feeling of being in the mountains.
This culture of tea, now part of everyday life in Japan, has a long history going back more than five centuries. Wabicha_tea ceremony based on the aesthetic principle of wabi_was first conceived by the monk Murata Shuk_(1422_1502), who renounced his attachment to Chinese culture in favor of the austere aesthetic of quiet contemplation in a thatched mountain hut. Shuk_s aesthetic of wabicha was further refined by the Sakai merchant Takeno Jo_(1502_55) and perfected by his student Sen no Riky_(1522_91) . Riky_developed a comprehensive tea culture embracing the basic requisites of life (food, clothing and shelter) and etiquette centering around the teahouse, the tea meal, the garden path to the teahouse, the waiting room, flower arrangement, and calligraphy.